Road warriors, take heart. The teeth-rattling, axle-crunching, tire-eating construction on Skillman Avenue will be over soon.
“Just after the first of the year, in early 1993,” predicts Jim Hunt, area engineer with the department, which monitors the work of contractors.
In mid-September, the project was only about 68 percent complete, but Hunt expects construction to progress rapidly this fall, allowing the $8 million, three-mile project to finish about three years after it began in February 1990.
That won’t be any too soon for City Councilman Donna Halstead.
“It seems like it has been 30 years!” she says. “That project is one full year behind schedule.”
Halstead says she receives at least a half-dozen calls about Skillman each week from constituents. Most are inquiries about the completion date, but many callers complain about the Church Road and Skillman intersection near Lake Highlands High School.
“On Tuesday of the first week of school, we had somebody run head-on into a police car, and then two others collided with them,” Halstead says. “It’s a huge problem.”
Halstead can sympathize with callers. She’s a Skillman Road warrior, too.
“I go through the intersection of Skillman and Kingsley at least twice a day,” she says, adding that her car received a bath there recently when a construction vehicle hit a water main just as she was going through the intersection.
Of course, just getting to the intersection is a problem.
“The timing of the lights is frequently altered during construction,” Halstead says. “It’s not uncommon to sit through that traffic light several times.”
Halstead advises drivers to “avoid Skillman at all costs,” but she also directs callers to the transportation department. The department has received the message – hundreds of messages, in fact, since the project began.
“Whenever you do construction, you aggravate somebody’s driving situation,” Hunt says. “I know they have been putting up with a lot of problems. The project is behind schedule.”
The contractor experienced organizational problems early in the project, Hunt says, and “Austin Paving was very slow on some of their work.”
And then, of course, there’s the weather.
“It was the rainiest year in the history of Dallas,” Hunt says of 1991. “That’s not an excuse. That’s just a fact.”
Hunt also reminds drivers the Skillman project has been made more complicated by the decision to keep two lanes open each way while construction proceeds.
“It would be a lot easier to shut traffic off, rebuild it (the road) and put it back,” he says.
Fortunately, drivers soon may be seeing the green light at the end of the tunnel. All northbound lanes have been built, so traffic is being routed onto the new pavement. As a result, drivers shouldn’t have to put up with the many potholes that cropped up earlier in the project.
And there’s more good news: Jon Jennings, project manager, expects the intersections of Kingsley and Fair Oaks to be completed about Nov. 1.
But don’t honk your horns in celebration yet. When that occurs, the infamous Church and Skillman intersection will be reduced to one lane in each direction, and Jennings advises drivers to take an alternate route.
“People won’t like it,” Jennings says, “but they sure need to know about it.”